Shandra Clay didn’t see her daughter’s death coming.
Bailie Lundy said she was going out to walk her dog on Feb. 12. Later that night, she was found dead in a Texas City park in what police said was an apparent suicide.
The past month has been hard, Clay said. But on a bright Saturday morning, she said she was also sure of one thing, she didn’t want others to go through the same pain she was going through.
“This has to stop,” she said. “Somebody, somewhere has got to say, ‘Let me step up, let me take some responsibility.’”
On Saturday morning, Clay and more than than 100 other people participated in a bullying and suicide awareness rally in La Marque. The event was held after the suicide of two Texas City High School students: Lundy, and 18-year-old Brandy Vela, who killed herself in November at her family’s home and whose death made national headlines because of its alleged connections to cyberbullying.
Although the incidents were unrelated and under different circumstances, the deaths of the two young people shook the community and inspired some to try to take action to prevent more young people from falling to the same fate.
“We decided that we wanted to do something that brings everybody together to try to do have dialogue and have a better understanding about what’s going on,” said Detrick Harper, one of the event’s organizers.
The day featured a march, and speakers from local schools, churches and police departments.
The rally was organized before Thursday’s announcement that two people — a man and woman from Galveston — had been arrested in connection to Vela’s suicide. Andres Villagomez, 21, was charged with threatening to release nude photographs of Vela, while Karinthya Romero, 22, was charged with felony stalking and harassment.
Both are awaiting court dates.
Some speakers at the event called for tougher and more thorough state laws to address cyberbullying.
“This is not an isolated issue,” said San Antonio resident Maurine Molak, whose son, David, killed himself in January 2015, after he was harassed online.
His death prompted his family to start the David’s Legacy Foundation and to advocate for change in the state’s laws to better protect minors against cyberbullying.
Molak said that after her son’s death became more widely known, she heard from other families that have gone through similar experiences.
“We had numerous parents and kids reach out to us to tell us their story,” Molak said. “Kids were telling me stories about what was said about them online, how they felt complete despair, hopelessness and powerlessness.
“Nobody really knew how to help. We knew we needed to do something about this new, pervasive issue that has crept into our homes.”
The bill that the Molaks advocate for is now known as David’s Law and Vela’s family has joined the effort to get the law passed.
During the rally, State Rep. Wayne Faircloth, a Galveston Republican, said he and other elected officials had signed on to support the Molaks’ initiative.
“We’re going to take legislation that’s going to deal with this,” Faircloth said. “We’re going to make that happen. We have to be accountable, and it starts with us.”